Yesterday the Internet choked on the veritable glut of tech-site articles all wondering the same thing: will the next-gen XBox murder the secondary games market? The concern stemmed from unconfirmed (or confirmed, if AppyGamer is to be believed) rumours that Microsoft was implementing several slightly unwelcome features to the new XBox:
- Making the switch to 50 GB-capacity Blu-ray discs, thus abandoning the HD-DVD format.
- Absolute commitment to online functionality, with game discs still available for purchase so probably, always-on DRM system.
- Games purchased on disc will ship with activation codes, thus invalidating it for re-sale/trade-in and tying them to the online account of the original purchaser.
Writers immediately seized on the glaringly obvious (at least to anyone who ever took a business class) economic downfall facing Microsoft if the last two plot-points actually become a thing. Upon consuming all the information available, which I have to reiterate is still just a collection of rumours, I too was incensed at the thought that physical copies of a game could no longer be traded, re-sold, or handed down to the younger set of gamers in my family. Commentary exploded with the anticipated “Microsoft sucks, I’m totes buying a PS4,” to which I say “you clearly don’t read enough because Sony’s announced similar plans.” Gamers brought up the idea of not being able to borrow games from friends, which was my #1 decision-making methodology before I had a job, and others mentioned that this would basically make GameStop et al obsolete which, who cares what happens to those relative thieves, am I right?
Anyway, after some thought though, you can kind of see the pros and cons of these (rumoured) decisions. Let’s take a look:
– Longevity: I went back to run through Arkham Asylum the other day, intending to write a Replay Values post related to it. Guess what? It had a scratch and I was not able to replay it. If I had a console with major space to accommodate downloaded IPs, I wouldn’t have this problem, would I?
– Potential for lowered pricing. Notice I said ‘potential.’ I haven’t written anything about this, since I’d already addressed it on a previous blog, but being a gamer on the other side of the Atlantic is EXPENSIVE. So it would be awesome if I could download a full game for a fraction of the price I pay at GameMania, Bol.com, Wehkamp.nl, etc. When you’re shelling out the equivalent of US$70-80 for a game, your wallet cries. This is due entirely to what I call the Symbol switch. Basically, retailers take the US price and slap a ‘€’ in front of it. It happens with most everything tech-wise and it’s a pain. Anyway…it’d be great to have this happen, but ‘potential’ is a pretty heavy word when it comes to money and games.
– Evolution of the industry: Let’s face it, Valve is pressing the console makers’ buttons and they’re trying to answer now. But it’s funny that critics are up in arms about this when Steam basically employs the same concept. It may have an offline mode, but from what I’ve witnessed of friends’ experiences, you might as well not utilize it.
– Cuts down on piracy: Who am I kidding? I couldn’t even type that without bursting out into raucous laughter.
For my part, there is one main consequence to always-on DRM and choking off the secondary market: limiting accessibility. What percentage of consoles are online? How many buyers possess a reliable connection to enable them to comply with these new regulations? Those are the questions that essentially need a response. Let’s face it; not everyone can afford a brand new console or brand new games. I know many game lovers who rely on that secondary market to indulge in their favourite hobby, and doesn’t that help all of us? That the base is consistently and continually strengthened? More to the point, not everyone has access to a broadband connection, in particular gamers living in those countries that have a weak ICT infrastructure. There are other issues really, for example server downtime, but those are kinks that Steam users have to contend with now, so there shouldn’t really be an uproar about that. The primary goal of any industry should be to create more consumers of your product. That’s how you cultivate adoration and support, and limiting the accessibility to games is like cutting off access to art by stopping poster prints of the great works. I frankly don’t think it’s going to happen, but I guess we’ll all learn more when E3 hits.
Until next time.